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Australia Day 2022

As we head towards Australia Day on 26 January, it affords us an opportunity to remember that the privilege many of us enjoy today came at great cost to First Nations People.

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As we head towards Australia Day on 26 January, it affords us an opportunity to remember that the privilege many of us enjoy today came at great cost to First Nations People.

Their sovereignty as custodians of this land for more than 40,000 years – the world's oldest continuous living culture - was never ceded, yet First Nations Peoples they continue to experience the ongoing discrimination and disadvantage of colonisation.

This divisive public holiday marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and has been held on this date since 1994.

For some people, Australia Day is all about the beach, barbies and a few drinks with friends and family, capped-off by fireworks displays across the country.

Some see it as an opportunity to celebrate national pride by wearing the Australian flag like a superhero cape, applying liberal amounts of green and gold zinc cream and parading around with an inflatable kangaroo tucked under their arm.

For many others, the selected date for Australia Day is offensive; marking a moment in history that sparked the end of traditional life and the start of a genocide for Aboriginal people.

Cycles of disadvantage seen today in First Nations communities can be traced to events that happened during colonisation, such is the extreme impact of trauma and dispossession.

Over the past couple of years, surveys by the ABC have shown that Australians are rapidly changing their minds over whether the 26 January is the most appropriate date to celebrate.

The Australia Talks National Survey in 2021 revealed a majority of people now believe Australia Day should not be celebrated on 26 January, given the historical significance of this date for First Nations People.

The number of people who agree with that sentiment has jumped by 12 per cent since the last survey in 2019 and there has also been a marked shift in the number of people who "strongly agreed" celebrations should move.

In 2019, just 28 per cent of respondents were strongly in favour of seeing a shift to the date, but that went up to 39 per cent in 2021.

Djirribul woman Shelley Reys has been at the forefront of the Reconciliation movement for three decades. She was the inaugural co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and helped to establish the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program, which Communicare has embraced as an organisation.

In an interview with the ABC, she said the change in attitude around Australia Day was a sign the country was "growing and maturing as a reconciled nation".

"That doesn't mean we have got there — we still have a long way to go — but I do think the maturity shows we are now thinking about the relationship between [Indigenous and non-Indigenous people] and how we repair the relationship," she said.

"Part of that is understanding the perspective of the other, and in this case it's about January 26, and possibly changing that date."

We share her sentiment.

As Australia Day approaches, we should all take the time to reflect on how we can best celebrate our nation in an inclusive way that shines a light on the remarkable longevity of First Nations People. Communicare recognises that modern Australia has much to be proud of and celebrate, but we must find a new date which both celebrates Australia and recognises the unsuitability of the current date for many First Nations Peoples.

As an organisation with a workforce and client-base comprising people from all corners of the world, we embrace fairness, inclusivity and diversity in everything we do.

This includes our ongoing commitment to meeting the aspirations of our Innovate RAP and supporting First Nations communities on whose lands and waterways we live and work.

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